Beans a handy tool for couple

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Variety is the spice of life for Munglinup farmers Chris and Kylie Tomlinson, who are adding faba beans into their rotation next year.

The young farmers have 25 hectares of Farah faba beans seeded in order to bulk up seed for next year.

Despite the legume occasionally being referred to as ‘failure beans’, Chris believes the couple can make them work.

“We need to get a legume back into our phase — we’ve got too much clay and loamy country,” he said.

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“It’s just not suited to lupins. Even though I’d like to grow lupins, they fail. Beans are supposed to be good for waterlogging, so it’s a bit of a trial.”

The couple has a canola-cereal rotation, but Chris said faba beans were a handy tool that he hoped would pay their own way.

“The beans should give us a couple of years of organic nitrogen,” he said.

“You talk to some of the guys who are growing them around here and they’ve made some of their best income out of the beans, but it’s really country suited.

“Our agronomist said they did really well in the loamier clay soils, but they’ll be half the size on the gravel soils and that’s probably where a lot of people could fail.

“It’s one of those things where I’ve got to put a price on what they’re doing to our ground as well.”

With more than 85mm in the rain gauge for May, the beans have germinated but there are things Chris would have done differently.

“We’ve learnt a few things — we’ve got a disc seeder and you’ve got to really penetrate them into the ground,” he said.

“But we only had just half moisture and the clay soils were too hard to penetrate.

“The discs were just bouncing across the top and the beans were on the top of the soil, so we’ve got a funny germination, but the bulk of the paddock is pretty good.”

Much like last autumn and winter, excess moisture is a challenge but it can be partially tackled by variety choice.

“Last year was a learning curve as to how you handled it,” Chris said.

“We reseeded 15 to 20 per cent and we could have done more but we had had enough. But even with how wet we got, we had some good yields last year and I think a lot of that comes down to which varieties we were growing.

“We had high-yielding varieties like Mace wheat and Hindmarsh barley. The beauty of those two grains is they’re mid-short season as well, so we didn’t have to rush to get them in.

“Last year, we didn’t seed cereals until July because we couldn’t and we were just short of three tonnes on the wheat.

“The Hindmarsh barley was only an 8ha block to bulk up for seed and that averaged five tonnes.

“There was an area in there that was waterlogged and that went about two tonnes, but then we went up to seven tonnes in places.”

The Hindmarsh has replaced Dash, with Chris aiming for yield rather than malting grain.

Despite a hefty discount from most grain marketers for genetically modified canola, the Tomlinsons will be growing two GM varieties this year — Hyola 502RR and 45Y22RR.

“We just use it as a tool," Chris said. “We’ve been pushing the rotation of canola-cereal for a while.”

With more than 250mm of rain for the year, Chris said they weren’t looking for more.

“That’s half our rainfall and I think we still had a fair bit of moisture left at depth from last year,” he said.

“We’ve got 45ha of canola to go and it’s just too wet.

“It’s in country that didn’t get seeded last year, because it was too wet and we’re now in the same boat again.

“I think we’ll call it quits on the canola now for the rest of the paddock and we’ll probably sow some short season wheat in there.”

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